Sri Lanka: UN resolution shows government failure to investigate past and present rights abuses

A new UN resolution does a good job of highlighting past and ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka, but regrettably fails to establish an independent and international investigation into alleged crimes under international law, Amnesty International said.

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva this morning passed a resolution on the need to promote reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka following the country’s armed conflict, which ended in 2009.

Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka expert, said:

“This is a positive development. UN Member States have sent a clear signal to the Sri Lankan government that crimes of the past cannot simply be ignored, but need to be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

“The text also crucially highlights the still very worrying human rights situation in Sri Lanka today, and calls for regular UN reporting on the implementation of the resolution, including of ongoing human rights violations.

“Since the conflict ended, we have seen the government crack down on dissenting views in a bid to increase its grip on power. Human rights defenders, journalists and the judiciary are among those that have been targeted through threats, harassment or even violent attacks – this has to stop.

“However, it is regrettable that the resolution fails to establish an independent and international investigation into the armed conflict, and alleged crimes under international law by both the government and the Tamil Tigers. It is clear that the Sri Lankan government is unwilling and unable to investigate these events itself, so an international probe is the only way to obtain the truth and justice necessary for genuine reconciliation.”

The HRC will next review the resolution’s implementation in September 2013, before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November, currently set to take place in Colombo.

“This resolution should be a wake-up call for all Commonwealth countries – they cannot leave grave human rights violations in Sri Lanka unaddressed.  Commonwealth leaders must ensure before they meet in November that justice for past crimes has been served in Sri Lanka,” Foster said.